Saturday, April 07, 2007

Holy Saturday

Last year on Holy Saturday, I was privileged to be present to a large group of teenagers who had gathered at the hospital in the wake a a terrible car accident. It occurred to me then, and it has stayed with me, that the fear and anxiety they felt marked something of what the apostles felt in the wake of Good Friday. Dreams and hopes dashed, the taken-for-granted past now a painful memory nearly erased by the trauma of a violent death. They're lives seem shattered, their faith seems for naught, their hopes wither and die.

I can't help but to think about how many of us live lives of perpetual Holy Saturdays. How many struggle just to hold on after the sudden death of a loved one, fumbling in the depths of grief for something to hold on to. The young mother awaiting a cancer diagnosis. The parents whose child is gravely ill. The father rousted from deep sleep with the news that his son has been in a terrible car accident. The fearful waiting, the seemingly feeble and empty prayers, the bargaining, the denial, the resigned acceptance, the anger...

For those who struggle to find meaning in this day, think back upon your own life. When in your life have you locked yourself away that the sun might not shine on your grieving face? When did you experience the harrowing and crushing pressure of the unknowing and doubt that plagues us when our world has been turned upside down? When did you last feel the sheer agony of disappointment for what "could have been" but "never will be"?

These are our Holy Saturdays, the days that follow in the wake of a trauma. Like the water churned in the wake of a boat, the waters surge and roil long after the boat has passed by; the violence of "You have cancer" or "Mr. Jones, we need you to come to the hospital, there has been an accident" breaks in upon us, leaving us adrift and disoriented in its wake.

Sometimes, it's all we can do to hold tighten our grip when everything within us tells us to let go, to give up, to despair. Sometimes it seems as though the chaos of our lives drowns out all other voices, all words of support, all hope for the future.

I think we'd like to consider ourselves an Easter people, those animated by the joy and majesty of the resurrection. Sinners all, I suspect we are actually denizens of Holy Saturday who only every now and again catch glimpses of Easter's triumph.

My prayer today brings me back to those times in my life when I have had staggering doubt and fear and disappointment...especially when there was no light at the end of the tunnel or any hope for victory. These experiences, I find, draw me into today's spirit - waiting, trusting, hoping against hope. If the night is darkest just before dawn, then we have reached this point that seems to extend into infinity - a point of time pregnant with as-yet unimagined opportunities, with un-thought of promise, with incomprehensible grace.

Many will go to bed tonight only to awaken to another Holy Saturday, another in an unending stream of doubt-filled and anxiety-ridden days. Let us be conscious of them today as we absorb the trauma of yesterday and look with hope-filled anticipation toward tomorrow. Let our prayers this day be for those whose lives are forever a repetition Holy Saturday, that they may glimpse in their dark hours a speck of Easter's light that threatens to break in upon us, announcing a new dawn, a new day, a new era.


Kiwi Nomad said...

Thanks for these prayers. When I was young and actually "trying" to be Catholic, I found the emptiness of Holy Saturday almost unbearable. Maybe it was a reflection of the unresolved grief I carried for my parent's deaths, maybe not.
These days, it is just another day, as I am far away from the church. I just have a vague yearning to work things out a bit. Thanks for remembering people like me.

Jason said...


I buried my grandma today. It was a simple Baptist memorial service, followed by a short graveside service.

Though the traditions of the Catholic Triduum weren't a part of her life, for me there was something blessed about the Lord giving her rest in this Holy Week, and our family remembering her today, in between the days we remember Christ's death, which he shared with us, and Christ's resurrection, which we shall share with him.

This was my Holy Saturday.

Joseph Fromm said...

This fitting for Holy Saturday


A Spiritual Exercise of St. Ignatius of Loyola

John 19 [25-37].

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I thirst." There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth.When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, "It is finished." And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.Now since it was preparation day, in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath, for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken and they be taken down.So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs,but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may (come to) believe. For this happened so that the scripture passage might be fulfilled: "Not a bone of it will be broken." And again another passage says: "They will look upon him whom they have pierced."

First Point.
First: He spoke seven words on the Cross: He prayed for those who were crucifying Him; He pardoned the thief; He recommended St. John to His Mother and His Mother to St. John; He said with a loud voice: “‘I thirst,’” and they gave Him gall and vinegar; He said that He was abandoned; He said: “It is consummated”; He said: “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit!”

Second Point.
Second: The sun was darkened, the stones broken, the graves opened, the veil of the Temple was rent in two from above below. Rent in two from above below is in St. Ignatius’ handwriting, correcting torn in pieces, which is crossed out.

Third Point.
Third: They blaspheme Him, saying: “‘Thou wert He who destroyest the Temple of God; come down from the Cross.”‘ His garments were divided; His side, struck with the lance, sent forth water and blood.

From the Church Father, Epiphanius of Salamis

Something strange is happening ... there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: "My Lord be with you all." Christ answered him: "And with your spirit." He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying, "Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light."

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendents I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.

For your sake I, your God, become your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I recieved in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

Jason said...

I just realized I wrote "Joe," and this is clearly and so obviously Ryan's blog, and you're so polite you didn't even call me on it.

Open mouth, insert foot.


Unknown said...

Hi Jason,

Yeah, there's a pretty big difference. I figured that you had other things on your mind than my name, so I traversed the route of instantly overlooking the oh-so-slight mistake!

Please know that you're in my prayers as your family mourns the loss and celebrate the life of your grandmother.